Following the EU Referendum debate and subsequent vote, it’s clear now that some politicians have seriously misled the public during their campaigning; and our nation has been left more divided than many of us have ever known it. I believe for even a little faith to begin to be restored in our political system, those responsible cannot be allowed to just walk away without their actions being recorded and scrutinised, or worse still carry on in public office without reprimand. Further to this and more importantly, it’s imperative that lessons need to be learned, and then new electoral standards legislation be put in place to protect the public during future electoral or referendum campaigns.
So why a public inquiry and why now? Well by having unfettered access to politician emails and other sensitive campaign information, and with the power to call politicians to give evidence, a public inquiry that is being closely observed by the media would shine a very bright light on the campaign tactics utilised, and also the intentions of many politicians, showing us to what degree misleading people and the dividing of communities was as a deliberate act. The truth is the EU Referendum is just the latest in a list of occasions where some politicians’ behaviour has fallen well short of what we expect, and this casts a long shadow across Westminster and UK politics as a whole, tarnishing the reputations of all politicians which just isn’t right as many are hard working, honourable people. Outside of politics, in business for example, were they to have intentionally made misleading statements and promises during the sale of goods say, they would find themselves prosecuted by trading standards and/or perhaps the subject of a consumer protection television show such as the BBC’s Watchdog. In a nutshell we need to find out now why so many politicians think it’s perfectly acceptable to behave in such a dishonest manner toward the public during campaigns. We also need to begin immediately to restore some public confidence in our political system, and I believe a good starting point would be to hold a public inquiry.
I personally feel a sense of disbelief, frustration and some anger that since the EU Referendum, within political circles, we hear no calls for the conduct of some politicians during campaigning to be examined. It’s especially amazing to me when it’s so universally acknowledged that the British people have been subjected to such misleading information on all sides of the debate (£350m a week for the NHS being the most notable example); that a previously unseen level of public hostility has been generated during campaigning; that despite winning, the Vote Leave campaign actually had no plan developed beyond winning the vote itself; and that the leader of the opposition may have misled people as to which side he was actually on. It’s all just staggered and unacceptable, especially when we consider that it’s been suggested by some politicians that the nature of the campaigning may have even been a contributory factor in the death of the respected MP Jo Cox.
So it’s now already clear that politicians will not choose to police themselves, and they will take action only if forced to by a show of public opinion on the matter. My instincts tell me even if there was pressure from the public, it would be resisted at first and an excuse of party or national unity would be used to close all matters relating to the EU Referendum; or conveyed would be an erroneous belief that a public inquiry would somehow get in the way of reuniting the people. Once again, I expect the behaviour of some politicians will be brushed under the carpet, regrettably further developing a growing public perception of an out of touch, yet untouchable political elite existing at Westminster.